Shisler’s Cheese House, still darn Gouda after 60 years (Massillon Independent)
GREAT article about us in The Massillon Independent by Jolene Limbacher
ORRVILLE Say “cheese” and smile because Shisler’s Cheese House is celebrating its 60th anniversary Friday and Saturday with fun, food and festivities.
It’s a joyous occasion for matriarch Rita Shisler and her family, who have shepherded the small but mighty specialty food shop, which has been a longtime popular tourist stop on the east-west corridor of Rt. 30.
On Aug. 7, 1958, Grandpa John Shisler purchased the cheese house from Fred Bieri, an elderly cheesemaker from Switzerland. Now, six decades and tons and tons of cheese later, it’s time to party.
Throughout the next two days, the celebration will include music, prizes, face painting, characters from the movie “Frozen,” a bounce house and free cheese samples, hot dogs and grilled bratwurst.
The 900-square-foot store, which does a robust business:
- Sells 2,000 pounds of Swiss cheese alone every week.
- Offers imported cheeses from Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Holland.
- Carries 82 different kinds of local cheeses made at six Holmes County cheese factories.
- Shipped cheese and gourmet products to 30 different countries last year.
- Ships to every state in the United States, with the most cheese and bologna going to Florida.
- Has shipped hams made at nearby Streb’s Meats to every National Football League owner.
- Used to send a wheel of baby Swiss every Christmas to legendary comedian Bob Hope. After he died at age 100 in 2003, the shipments continued to his widow, Dolores, until her death in 2011.
It’s a shame, Rita Shisler lamented, that many people only know about pre-packaged cheese that’s cut into slices, wrapped in cellophane and sold as “processed cheese.”
“They have no idea what fresh cheese tastes like,” she said. “Once they taste it, they absolutely fall in love with it.”
Jailed for keeping Sunday hours
For 49 years, Shisler has been opening the store at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 9 a.m on Sundays. She’s the good-will ambassador with the personal touch and instant rapport with customers, chatting about where they’re from, how many children and grandchildren they have and how they must try their latest kind of cheese.
She reminisced about Grandpa Shisler, who at 19 years old, became the youngest postmaster of Dalton in 1909, a position that was once a political appointment. He held that job for 16 years.
He was quite the rebel, she recalls, because soon after he bought the store in 1958, he didn’t cotton to being told what hours he could keep.
Until, that is, the Wayne County sheriff conducted a sting operation by sending an employee to the store on a Sunday to buy a loaf of bread. With sirens blaring, they hauled a defiant Grandpa off to jail for violating Ohio’s now-defunct blue law, which prohibited retail activity on Sundays.
Then, to punctuate his personal dislike of government dictating his business hours, he refused to allow son Dan to bail him out right away. Grandpa was 76 when he died in 1966.
“I would not have gone to jail,” said Rita Shisler. “I would have followed the law and closed the store.”
Under Dan Shisler’s ownership, which began in 1959, the store grew by leaps and bounds. Rita Shisler said her husband was one of the best baseball players to come out of Dalton High School. From there, he went to Ohio University where he played ball, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but tore up his shoulder and never fulfilled his dream of playing in the majors.
After Dan and Rita married, he turned the store over to her and became delicatessen and wine manager at the former A & D Foodarama. They opened a second location — Shisler’s Cheese & Wine Barrel — in the Belden Village area in 1974. That store was closed seven years later so they could spend time with sons, Daniel (DJ) and Dennis before they graduated high school and went to college.
Rita’s husband died 14 years ago.
With an estimated 40,000 cars a day passing Shisler’s Cheese House, Rita Shisler said about 80 percent of their customers are tourists or folks who frequently travel to the Columbus and Canton areas.
Plans call for expanding the current structure late this fall, making it at least three times larger and having a dining area for soups and sandwiches. Dennis, a third-generation Shisler who manages the store, which is just outside of Dalton, would like to construct a building nearby to expedite shipping orders. Sixty percent of shipments, he said, go to the Tampa-Clearwater area, crediting much of those sales to local people who have moved South.
The family also has discussed opening stores in the Greater Tampa area, Dallas and perhaps Reno.
A second location is open in Copley at 1275 Cleveland-Massillon Road and is owned by son Daniel Shisler. It offers catering, deli sandwiches and soup, wines and a large variety of specialty foods.
At 72, Rita Shisler remains active in Orrville Lions Club, Dalton Ruritans, Women’s Network of Wooster and Akron, and Quota International, a women’s group that assists community members with hearing problems. The store employs many area students, who Shisler mentors about business and doing what’s right.
Dennis Shisler and his wife, Claudia, have a nine-year-old daughter, Natalia, who, as a fourth-generation Shisler, enjoys being in the store with her grandmother and running the cash register and making change.
See the full text of the original article in the Massillon Independent here.